12 best large dog breeds for families

May 17, 2024 - 7 min read
Two young girls and a golden retriever sitting on a grey couch

When it comes to adding a large-breed dog to your family, there's a lot to consider. Depending on your family's lifestyle, you might be seeking a vigilant guard dog, an energetic hiking buddy, or just a tenderhearted cuddle bug.

The plenty of pure breeds who can exhibit these traits, especially if you get them from a responsible breeder. However there are also plenty of mixed breeds in the shelter that boast the best traits of multiple breeds.

Here’s a look at some of the best prodigious pups–both purebred and mixed–that cater to families of all kinds.

Labrador retriever

A golden retriever lying down, looking to the side with a happy expression, set against a soft cream background.

The family favorite

Why they’re great: What kind of family-friendly breed list would be complete without the ever-popular Labrador retriever? They're the second most popular dog breed in the US, second only to Frenchies, according to AKC's list for 2023. (Before that, Labs were #1 for 31 straight years.) Labs are famously friendly, loyal, and versatile. They excel in a variety of roles, from service dogs to playful pets.

Ideal family: Perfect for active families who enjoy outdoor activities and want a sociable, easy-going dog.

Things to consider: Labs need regular exercise to manage their energy levels and remain healthy. They also tend to be food-oriented (read: food-obsessed), so watch their diet to keep them from tipping the scales into overweight or obese territory. And make sure to double check your breeder's reputation; the popularity of Lab breeding means that some common hereditary issues can crop up.

A close-up of a concerned yellow Labrador Retriever with a gentle expression, receiving an examination by a veterinarian whose hands are shown holding a clipboard, in a clinical setting.

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A close-up of a concerned yellow Labrador Retriever with a gentle expression, receiving an examination by a veterinarian whose hands are shown holding a clipboard, in a clinical setting.

German Shepherd

A German Shepherd lying down with ears perked up and tongue out, featuring a black and tan coat, looking forward with a playful gaze, against a cream background.

The loyal guardian

Why they’re great: Known for their intelligence and versatility, German Shepherds are excellent family protectors and are often used in police and service work. It's no wonder they rank #4 on the AKC's most popular breeds list.

Ideal family: Best for families looking for a confident and protective companion (and who are willing to invest ample time in training and exercise).

Things to consider: Shepherds require firm, consistent training from an early age (along with proper socializing) and are prone to hip dysplasia, so regular vet checks are crucial to stay on top of potential emerging health issues.

Golden retriever

A golden retriever lying down, smiling with a tongue out, showing a lush golden coat, set against a clean beige background.

The gentle companion

Why they’re great: Another renowned family dog, Golden retrievers rank #3—right behind Labs—on the AKC's list. And it's no wonder. This breed is well-loved for its gentle disposition, intelligence, and adaptability.

Ideal family: Great for families with young children seeking a patient and protective pet.

Things to consider: Like Labs, Goldens need plenty of exercise, and their long coats require regular grooming to keep them looking gorgeous (and feeling great). Goldens are also popularly bred, so it's important to find a breeder that will steer clear of breeding dogs with known issues.

Bernese Mountain Dog

A Bernese Mountain Dog sitting, with a glossy tri-color coat, panting and looking cheerful, set against a beige background.

The majestic mellow one

Why they’re great: Bernese Mountain Dogs have a calm and affectionate nature and are great for families who appreciate a more laid-back companion.

Ideal family: Perfect for families living in cooler or moderate climates who have plenty of space for a large, gentle breed.

Things to consider: Bernese are prone to health issues, including hip dysplasia, and have a shorter lifespan than many other breeds (typically 7–10 years).


A Boxer dog standing, with a tawny coat and white chest, panting and looking directly at the camera, against a plain beige background.

The playful protector

Why they’re great: Boxers are energetic, fun-loving, and protective, making them excellent guard dogs as well as family pets. They were originally bred to be hunting and working dogs, but these pups play as hard as they work. They're well known for their exuberant personalities.

Ideal family: Boxers are a great option for active families who can provide plenty of exercise and playtime.

Things to consider: We weren't joking about their exuberance. Boxers can be boisterous and require adequate training to manage their strength. Like many of the large dogs on this list, they are also prone to hip dysplasia and cardiomyopathy—good reasons to seek out reputable breeders and see your vet for regular wellness checks.


A Newfoundland dog lying down, with a glossy black coat and tongue out, looking forward with a relaxed expression, set against a light background.

The gentle giant

Why they’re great: Newfoundlands, aka "Newfies," are known for their sweet nature and strength and are often called “nanny dogs” for their patience with children.

Ideal family: Best for families with ample living space who want a large, affectionate dog that is great with kids.

Things to consider: Their luxuriously thick coats require regular maintenance, and their large size = more space and a bigger food budget. Newfies are also prone to hip dysplasia, bloat, and hypothyroidism, so as always, seek out a responsible breeder.


Mastiff + Labrador mix

Why they’re great: Imposing Mastadors combine the gentleness of the Labrador with the sturdiness of the Mastiff, making them excellent family pets that can also provide protection. Depending on their parentage, they can tip the scales at up to 160 pounds.

Ideal family: Suitable for families who want a large, affectionate dog that can also serve as a mild guard dog.

Things to consider: Mastadors need space to roam and can be prone to health issues common to their parent breeds, such as joint problems.

Great Dane

A Great Dane sits in profile, displaying a striking black and white patched coat. The dog gazes forward, showing a calm and attentive expression, highlighted against a plain light background.

The towering buddy

Why they’re great: Despite their imposing size (they're not called the "Apollo of Dogs" for no reason), Great Danes are also loving and great with children. They’re often referred to as “gentle giants.” It's a good thing, too, since they can weigh up to 200 pounds.

Ideal family: Great for families who don’t mind having a very large dog that loves to be as close to their pack as possible. They're affectionate and, when properly socialized, friendly with almost everyone, so don't expect a true guard dog.

Things to consider: Great Danes need careful training as puppies to ensure they grow into respectful adult dogs. Health issues, including heart conditions like dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), are potential concerns for the breed.


Golden retriever + labrador retriever mix

Why they’re great: Goldadors inherit the best traits from both Goldens and Labs, making them exceptional family pets known for their friendly nature, intelligence, and loyalty. They're typically easy to train and very social.

Ideal family: Perfect for any family, especially those with children, looking for an active, affectionate dog that enjoys being involved in all family activities.

Things to consider: Like their parents from both lines, Goldadors are energetic and require plenty of exercise to keep them happy. They also need regular grooming to manage their shedding and may be prone to health issues common to their parent breeds, such as hip dysplasia.


German shepherd + standard poodle mix

Why they’re great: Shepadoodles combine the German shepherd's loyalty and protectiveness with the hypoallergenic coat of the poodle. This mix tends to be highly intelligent, energetic, and adaptable.

Ideal family: Best for active families that can provide lots of mental and physical stimulation and those looking for a dog with fewer shedding concerns (German "shedder" owners know what we're talking about).

Things to consider: Shepadoodles need consistent training and socialization due to their intelligence and energy levels. They thrive on engagement and may develop separation anxiety if left alone for too long. It's also important to stay on top of grooming sessions to maintain their coat.


A Labradoodle stands on a plain light background. The dog has a thick, curly coat in a rich amber color and displays a joyful expression with its tongue out.

Labrador retriever + standard poodle mix

Why they’re great: Labradoodles combine the friendliness and trainability of Labs with the intelligence and low-shedding coat of the poodle, making them popular among families with allergies. They're known for their sociable nature and quick learning abilities.

Ideal family: Perfect for families looking for a playful, affectionate, and energetic dog that is also less allergenic. Doodles are well-suited to homes with kids and can adapt to both active and relaxed lifestyles.

Things to consider: Labradoodles require regular exercise to manage their energy and avoid boredom (those poodle smarts are double-edged). Their coat can vary from wavy to curly and needs regular grooming to prevent matting and keep them looking their best. As with other mixes, they can inherit health issues common to both parent breeds, so if you're buying one, adopt from a reputable breeder who conducts thorough health screenings.


A close-up of a happy Goldendoodle, with a golden-brown coat and shining eyes, looking directly at the camera against a light gray background.

Golden retriever + standard poodle mix

Why they’re great: Goldendoodles blend the amiable and gentle nature of the Golden retriever with the intelligence and hypoallergenic qualities of the poodle (it turns out poodles are very popular for mixes). This makes them not only friendly and easy to train, but also a top pick for families with allergy concerns. They are known for their boundless affection, and they often serve as excellent therapy dogs.

Ideal family: Ideal for families seeking a loving, active companion that gets along well with children and other pets. They fit well into almost any home environment, thriving on human interaction and companionship.

Things to consider: Like their Labradoodle cousins, Goldendoodles require regular exercise to stay healthy and happy. And while they're not as prone to shedding quite as much thanks to their poodle heritage, their coats can range in texture and still require frequent grooming to prevent matting.

Whether you're after a protective guard dog, a loyal hiking companion, or a gentle giant for cuddles, these breeds offer a range of traits that can make them wonderful additions to any home. With the right training, care, and attention, any of these breeds can become an integral part of your family.

And because they become so integral, it's important to keep them healthy. But for the moments when you can't—when accidents and illnesses strike—it's reassuring to know that you have dog insurance to help reimburse you for the cost of treating your kids' favorite buddy.

Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.